For decades, a separatist movement in Quebec has tainted Canadian politics with a sense of bad blood.
In many ways, Quebec is already like a separate country from the rest of Canada. They speak French 60% of the time, they sometimes eat different foods compared to the rest of Canada and... thats about it.
Really, that is it.
They still play hockey as much as the rest of Canada, have crime, pollution, spouses who cheat, children that disobey their parents, people who are rude and politicians that cheat and steal from the taxpayer.
The more people try to claim "Quebec is a distinct society", the more people realize its really quite similar to the rest of Canada. Its not distinct, its just unique.
Just like Ontario is unique.
Or the Yukon.
After all, there is no other Quebec anywhere in the world. Its the only one, and therefore it is unique.
Quebec is not the only province in Canada that speaks French either. If you go to New Brunswick or northern Ontario, most of the people speak French as well.
And French isn't the only language in Canada that is spoken primarily in certain areas.
Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia speaks 90% Scottish Gaelic. Indeed, Scotland doesn't even speak Scottish Gaelic that much anymore, so that makes Cape Breton Island truly unique, because it is the ONLY large area in the whole world that still speaks Scottish Gaelic (there are a couple islands and spots in Northern Scotland that still speak Scottish Gaelic).
Toronto is the most multicultural city in the world. It has the highest diversity and highest percentages of different cultural backgrounds than any where else in the world. Its like a New Jerusalem, where everyone is welcome.
Languages are extremely important in Canada, and you don't realize why until you see the statistics.
Canada has two official languages, English (59.3%) and French (23.2%). The remaining 17.5% speak a different language as their First language. Of that 17.5%, the other languages include some form of Native Canadian language or Inuit, Italian, Spanish, Scottish Gaelic, other European, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, other Asian, Arabic/Persian and a variety of regional languages/dialects.
What is also really interesting is the number of Canadians with "mixed heritage", whose parents come from different background.
Canada's ethnic groups are as follows: British Isles origin 28%, French origin 23%, other European 15%, Native/Inuit 2%, other (mostly Asian, African, Arab) 6%, mixed background 26%.
26% is mixed background. That's more than the 23% that is 'pure' French origin, although I doubt its pure.
For myself, I am a mix of Scottish/French/German/Jewish and my girlfriend is African/Welsh.
But as far as I am concerned, I am 100% Canadian (and an atheist).
Back to our original topic, people in France and the United States can't imagine WHY Quebec would even want to separate from Canada. From their perspective, Canada is the best country in the world (some Americans disagree due to their national pride) and someone would have to be pretty stupid to want to leave.
If Quebec ever did separate from the rest of Canada to form their own country, they would have several problems: They would still be using Canadian money, and they would no longer be able to get extra money from the Canadian federal government during times of need.
Plus they would be vulnerable to political control from the United States (which currently controls the Conservative party sell-outs in Canada).
The process of creating their own country could cause their economy to collapse into a depression, due to foreign investors pulling out of Quebec because of fear of economic/political instability.
And even after they pulled out, there would always be Canadians in Quebec who want to rejoin Canada, resulting in a "Reunificiation Party" in Quebec politics, for which Re-Confederation with Canada would be their goal.
If you look at the map below, you will see it was really only PART of Quebec that actually wanted to separate and voted Yes/Oui in the 1995 Referendum. The Red area indicates that 55% or more voted No/Non, and the Blue area indicates that 55% or more voted Yes/Oui.
If there ever was another referendum, the Parti Bloc Quebecois may decide to only try to take "part of Quebec" rather than the whole thing. After all, its obvious that not all of Quebec wants to leave Canada at all. Just a small chunk of it. And even that chunk is only about 60% in favour of the idea.
And looking at the shape of the area that actually voted yes, there isn't even a proper geographic border or shape of this "Separatist Quebec". It looks more like an ink blot.
It has now been 10 years since the 1995 Referendum, and while Quebec separatism is still there, there has also been some dramatic changes in Quebec.
The population of Quebec is currently 7.5 million, of which 5.8 million are legal voting age, which includes roughly 1.1 million new voters from the last 10 years of immigration/younger citizens coming of age, and has lost 0.5 million older voters. This represents a dramatic shift in the way Quebec would vote if another Referendum were to be held in the near future.
But there has also been a cultural shift. After 1995, many Quebecois gave up on the separatism idea. One of the primary reasons during the 1995 Referendum for why the separatist movement failed was because Native Canadians, immigrants and minority groups all voted against Quebec Separatism, plus a strong ethnic French "Non" vote. The election results was an astonishing 50.5% No/Non Vs. a 49.5% Yes/Oui vote.
That 1% difference is why Quebec is still part of Canada today, but it raises an important question: What would people vote today?
Best estimates and polling shows that if the referendum were held today, roughly 62% would vote No.
Why then is the Bloc Quebecois still in federal politics?
well, if you look at the 2004 election results, there is only two political parties in Quebec: Of 75 seats in Quebec, the Liberals have 21 and the BQ has 54. In Quebec, it is basically a two party system. There is no third option.
At the same time however, the BQ have switched goals. They are no longer as interested in Quebec Separatism (although the topic still comes up), they are more interested in getting Quebec a bigger chunk of the pie (tax revenues to be spent in Quebec), and thus they are essentially a regional political party with its efforts focused on making its voters happy.
So is Quebec Separatism dead?
No, it isn't.
In fact, the current alliance between the Bloc Quebecois and the Conservative Party has put a possible referendum back on the menu for 2006. If the Conservative Party were to win a minority government in November 2005, they would have to ally themselves with the Bloc Quebecois in order to gain a majority control of the House of Commons. That means that one of the first things to do on the Conservative/Bloc Quebecois alliance's list would be a new referendum on Quebec Separatism.
Such an alliance would surely cause an uproar in the rest of Canada. In Quebec, the 2.85 million who voted No and the 2.75 million who voted Yes last time would again be arguing back and forth.
Or would they? Remember that Quebec's demographics has changed dramatically in the last 10 years. Roughly 0.4 million Yes voters have died of old age/natural causes since then, and there is now 1.1 million new voters.
I estimate that any new Referendum would result in a 3.94 No vote and a 2.35 million Yes vote. A resounding victory against Quebec Separatism. So, no, Quebec Separatism isn't dead, but it isn't going to win any votes either.
I am beginning to wonder if its time the Bloc Quebecois stopped participating in federal politics. They are not national party. They aren't even a proper provincial party. Due to their name, they are the "default party" for Quebec voters, and so they enjoy popular support because they know the party is going to stand by them on issues that are important to the people of Quebec. But what about issues where the people don't agree, like whether or not we should send troops to Iraq, whether abortion should be legal, stem cell research, space exploration/NASA, gay marriages, immigration.
Within the BQ party, there is no agreement on these issues. They argue amongst themselves. What is really needed is for the BQ to simply disappear and be replaced with parties that have "real issues" rather than daydreams of Quebec Separatism. Its become obvious that the people of Quebec will NEVER vote to separate from the rest of Canada, so its really not an important issue anymore.
And so Quebec has been lagging behind the rest of Canada when it comes to real issues like the economy, education, health care. They need to stop daydreaming and think about real issues that they can actually make a difference on.
My own family history includes French, but its also a mixture of Scottish, German and Jewish. I speak English, French, German, Scottish Gaelic and I am currently learning Korean and Chinese. I love all languages and all cultures.
To me, being Canadian is extremely important. I am proud to have Quebec as part of Canada, and I hope all people from across Canada agree with me when I proudly say:
(Statistics used on this site are from Statistics Canada and the CIA World Factbook.)